Get Your Guitar Setup
A good quality setup should leave your guitar much easier to play with action that suits your style and the instrument intonated as close to perfect as is possible. The nut should be low. The frets should be polished allowing smooth bends. Every piece of hardware and electronics should be serviced for perfect operation and reliability. Your guitar should be clean. It should have new strings. It should even smell nice. When all that is done the guitar won’t hold you back from how good a musician you can be!
If Your Nut or Saddle Is Plastic Upgrade It!
Plastic nuts and saddles have a softness to them. This softness robs some energy from the vibrating string dulling the tone and reducing the volume and sustain. Plastic nuts also cause tuning problems as the string can bind into the soft plastic as you bend the string or tune the guitar.
I like bone nuts and saddles because it’s easy to work with, sounds great and looks correct. Nubone, Corrian, Brass etc are all good too. Just as long as it’s not plastic.
This upgrade can be very noticeable on acoustic guitar. I’ve made more than a few old Yamaha acoustics really come alive with this upgrade. Bone for tone!
Relearn how to restring your guitar
This is patronising, I know you can restring your guitar. Just please take the time to go back and double check how you’re doing it.
Poor restring technique leads to poor tuning. And poor tuning leads to Graham Coxon solos and you are not as cool as him. Solo starts at 2.59!
Every week I see guitars belonging to very experienced successful musicians who have strings tied on, or with insufficient wraps around the tuning post, or some strings are on the outside of pegs and other strings are wrapped around the inside. There are lots of ways to get this wrong and its worth getting right!!
This one is real but it’s tricky. What is better? Better pickups sound better as long as they are actually better. Hope that’s cleared that up.
I recently replaced a set of Gibson P100 pickups with a set of Lollar P90s. When I played that guitar for the first time small birds landed on me and woodland animals gathered around my feet. THEY WERE ACTUALLY BETTER. It was a dramatic Improvement.
I also replaced the stock pickups in a Gibson les Paul Studio with Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups a month or two back. The guitar sounded great before and great afterwards. It sounded different with the new pickups but it didn’t sound objectively better.
As I said, it’s a tricky one!
Try Elixir Strings
If you have never tried Elixir Strings then give them a go. They are coated in a microscopic film of plastic that does two things.
- It stops the strings from getting dirty and corroded therefore increasing their lifespan 3 or 4 times over regular strings. People think this is the big selling point. But the real benefit is the next point.
- They feel slinky and smooth and fast. This is the benefit people don’t appreciate before they try them. They make you play better! Your fingers glide over them as the microscopic plastic coating decreases the friction. You will probably play better with elixirs. I know I do. I was playing a pub gig last year and I broke the A string on my acoustic. I replaced it with a Martin A string. The rest of the strings were Elixir. It felt like my A string has a rusty length of barbed wire compared to the other strings.